Lead Pastor Ben Elliott, of the Deer Park Alliance Church, now videotapes his sermons and posts them for viewing on the church’s website. (Contributed photo by Paul Krupin.)

Red Deer churches find new, digital ways of reaching out to parishioners

Many churches are honing their techie-skills and going online

With many anxious parishioners needing consolation, Red Deer churches are finding alternative ways of delivering their weekly services.

Most, if not all local houses of worship have stopped doing live services after the government banned gatherings of more than 50 people to try to slow the spread of COVID-19.

These churches have now reverted to various alternatives, such as holding virtual services available by livestream, video or audio.

“These are challenging times” — both emotionally and technologically, admitted Pastor Peter Rockhold, of the New Life Fellowship Christian Reform Church.

“The nice thing is that the people are all understanding and flexible, even when we have technical difficulties, because we’re not the most (tech savvy) people in the world, ” he added, with a chuckle.

As of last weekend, New Life Fellowship’s 100 members have been able to sign on to a Zoom interactive teleconference site.

After first obtaining a password from the church, small groups of four or five people can come together virtually to participate in discussions and prayers.

Other digital forms are also being explored. Rockhold said, “It’s an adjustment, but I think churches are adjusting well…”

At Deer Park Alliance Church, lead Pastor Ben Elliott now performs Sunday services in an empty church. These are videotaped and posted for viewing on the church’s website.

There’s also a “text to pray” option available, which allows parishioners to text in requests for prayers to be said for people who are experiencing troubles, said Elliott.

And the church is now looking at setting up a personal connection platform, such as Skype, that can be used for one-on-one consultations.

The sad irony of all this virus containment is not lost on Elliott, who observes that churches have usually functioned as an important community hub. Many people depend on Sunday services and various men’s and women’s groups to get out and commune with others.

Knowing this, he said several church members are making a point of reaching out to older people.

“In the middle of this coronavirus (pandemic), we are putting together a plan to be connected to all seniors over the phone.”

As well, a volunteer group was formed to help with picking up prescriptions and groceries for older parishioners who are at higher risk if they contract the virus, or who are housebound because of other illnesses.

Marriages and funerals present a new logistical challenge. Elliott had to tell a couple of brides and grooms to scale back their wedding plans to immediate family and best friends only.

“If they can all fit in my office, then it’s OK,” said Elliott, who advises these people to have a huge celebration on their first anniversary instead.

As for funerals, it’s small graveside ceremonies only for now.

“We’re all in this together, as a community,” he added, so people have so far been understanding.

Officials at Gaetz Memorial United Church are still allowing individuals to enter the sanctuary for reflection and prayers, even though there are no live services.

While church leaders explore options for livestreaming or videotaping local services, parishioners are being advised to watch other United Church services online.

Minister Leila Currie said she’s always available by phone for pastoral care, and church members are also calling more isolated people to ensure “nobody falls between the cracks.”

As Easter approaches, the prospect of having no live church services feels like “it’s Lent and we’re all in the wilderness,” said Currie.

“But if we are all living in a loving manner, being as compassionate as we can be, it means isolating ourselves, unfortunately…”

“Fortunately, there are a lot of ways of connecting these days and that’s a blessing.”



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

Keaton Wildeboer, of Lacombe, participates in the Westerner Championship Dairy Showcase at Westerner Park on Thursday. More than 150 cattle will be on display at the event, which continues until Saturday, carrying on a tradition started in 1954. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Western Canada’s first dairy showcase since last fall begins in Red Deer

Western Canada’s first dairy showcase since last fall is currently being held… Continue reading

Car thief opening stolen car doors. 
(Black Press File Image)
Idling vehicles attracting thieves, RCMP warns

About one-third of stolen vehicles left idling unattended

Police reveal a collection of drugs, cash and guns seized in an April 2016 bust. One of the men charged was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday.
Advocate file photo
Red Deer man sentenced to 27 months for role in “dial-a-dope” operation

RCMP Priority Crimes Task Force broke up drug operation in April 2016 after four-month investigation

Red Deer RCMP say a 30-year-old man faces sexual charges against a teen. (File photo by Advocate staff)
RCMP’s downtown traffic stops lead to charges

Two traffic stops conducted by Red Deer RCMP officers on bike patrol… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020.	Kenney is isolating at home after one of his ministers tested positive for COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Alberta premier isolating after minister tests positive for COVID-19

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is isolating at home

North Carolina State safety Jakeen Harris (6) tackles Virginia wide receiver Terrell Jana (13) during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Va. Jana's last name doesn't appear on the back of his Virginia Cavaliers football jersey as a tribute to enslaved labourers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, The Daily Progress, Erin Edgerton
Canadian receiver Jana’s name missing from jersey to honour enslaved labourers

Canadian receiver Jana’s name missing from jersey to honour enslaved labourers

Tiger Woods hits from the 11th tee during the first round of the Zozo Championship golf tournament Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, in Thousand Oaks, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Munoz in the lead and Woods with his worst score at Sherwood

Munoz in the lead and Woods with his worst score at Sherwood

The national anthem is performed ahead of the inaugural soccer match of the Canadian Premier League between Forge FC of Hamilton and York 9 in Hamilton, Ont. Saturday, April 27, 2019. Canadian Premier League champion Forge FC takes on El Salvador's CD Municipal Limeno in a CONCACAF League preliminary-round match Thursday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Lynett
Forge FC scores late to win CONCACAF League preliminary-round game in El Salvador

Forge FC scores late to win CONCACAF League preliminary-round game in El Salvador

NHL cancels 2021 Minnesota Winter Classic, All-Star Weekend

NHL cancels 2021 Minnesota Winter Classic, All-Star Weekend

FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2020, file photo, Mariah Bell performs her senior women's free skate program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, in Greensboro, N.C. When U.S. skaters and a few foreigners training in this country kick off the season at Skate America this weekend, it could be a rare opportunity to display their wares. So they will relish the chance to get on the ice for competition, knowing that two Grand Prix series events and the Grand Prix Final have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, and prospects of national and word championships being held are uncertain.(AP Photo/Lynn Hey, File)
Skate America opens shortened, coronavirus-impacted season

Skate America opens shortened, coronavirus-impacted season

Kang, Song share lead in LPGA Drive On Championship

Kang, Song share lead in LPGA Drive On Championship

Vegas Golden Knights' Alec Martinez (23) is checked by Vancouver Canucks' Jake Virtanen (18) during first period NHL Western Conference Stanley Cup playoff action in Edmonton on August 23, 2020. The Canucks have signed Virtanen to a two-year contract with an average annual value of US$2.55 million. Virtanen had 36 points and 41 penalty minutes in 69 games in the 2019-20 season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Forward Jake Virtanen signs new two-year deal with hometown Vancouver Canucks

Forward Jake Virtanen signs new two-year deal with hometown Vancouver Canucks

Vancouver Canucks' Bo Horvat (53) celebrates his goal as he is followed by St. Louis Blues' Alex Pietrangelo (27) during overtime in first round NHL Stanley Cup playoff hockey series in Edmonton, on Friday August 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Opening up is not a bad thing’: Canucks’ Bo Horvat leading through uncertainty

‘Opening up is not a bad thing’: Canucks’ Bo Horvat leading through uncertainty

Most Read